Name:Fleetwood-Smith, Leslie O'Brien
Date of Birth:30 March 1908 (d 16 March 1971)
Career:1930/31 - 1945/46
Teams:St Kilda, Melbourne
Batting Style:RHB
Bowling Style:LAWS


Leslie O’Brien Fleetwood-Smith was the tragic genius of Victorian and Australian cricket. He was born at Stawell in 1908 and was a schoolmate of Test batsman Leo O’Brien at Xavier College. He played 32 games with St Kilda between 1931/32 and 1932/33 and 42 with Melbourne between 1933/34 and 1945/46, while playing much more for Victoria and Australia.

He still holds St Kilda’s match record of 16/82 (8/41 in each innings) against Carlton in 1931/32.

He started bowling with his left arm after he broke the right arm as a schoolboy. He bowled faster than most spinners, and had a fun attitude highlighted by imitating magpies, kookaburras and other birds while in the field.

He had few peers in making the ball spin but he lacked control, concentration and dedication to fulfil his ability. He also had the misfortune of playing in the same era as two legends, Bill O’Reilly and Clarrie Grimmett.

Bill Woodfull said he “could bowl more unplayable balls, I think, that any other man I saw on the field.”

Fleetwood-Smith made his first-class debut in 1930-31, taking 11 wickets in his first match against South Australia. In nine seasons from 1931/32, he took 295 wickets for Victoria at 24.38 and 597 at 22.64 in all first-class games.

He took five wickets or more an extraordinary 57 times in 112 first-class matches, and 18 times took 10 or more wickets in a match. He took 15 wickets in two Sheffield Shield matches, and 14 in another.

He took 60 wickets for Victoria in the 1934/35 season. Tragically he became a vagabond in later life, sleeping under bridges and begging money for food and drink. In 1969 he was discovered, put in hospital, dressed neatly and returned to society. His estranged wife took him back into her care and he never had another drink. However the man with the cavalier attitude and film star looks of yesteryear died of pneumonia on March 16, 1971.


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